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Pakistan hangs record 12 convicts in wake of moratorium lift

AFP

Pakistan hanged 12 men on Tuesday, the highest number in a single day after the government lifted a six-year-old moratorium on capital punishment in December, officials said.

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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted a de facto moratorium on capital punishment on December 17, a day after Pakistani Taliban militants gunned down 154 people, most of them children, at a school in the restive northwest.

The slaughter has put pressure on the government to do more to tackle the militant Islamist insurgency.

Twenty-seven people were hanged before Tuesday’s executions, most of them on terrorism charges. But it revealed last week that officials had quietly widened the policy to include all prisoners on death row whose appeals had been rejected.

“They were not only terrorists, they included the other crimes, some of them were murderers and some did other heinous crimes,” a ministry spokesman told Reuters in reference to this week’s hangings.

The moratorium on executions had been in place since a democratic government took power from a military ruler in 2008.

Notorious justice system

Human rights group Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process.

Supporters of the death penalty in Pakistan argue that it is the only effective way to deal with terrorism.

But rights groups are highly critical of Pakistan's criminal justice system, which they say is replete with rampant police torture and unfair trials.

Pakistan's courts are notoriously slow, heavily reliant on witness testimony over crime scene evidence and provide little by the way of protection for judges or witnesses who are often intimidated or bribed into dropping their claims.

"This shameful retreat to the gallows is no way to resolve Pakistan's pressing security and law and order problems," Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International's deputy Asia-Pacific director, said last week.

European Union diplomats have also raised concerns over capital punishment in Pakistan.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

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